The beneficiaries of the revenue generated by Naperville’s eating and drinking patrons last year will soon be determined.
Two dozen representatives of the agencies that submitted 91 separate requests for slices of the $2 million Special Events and Cultural Amenities Fund brought their pleas to the Advisory Cultural Commission Saturday morning. The public hearing, the second of two sessions hosted by the commission, culminated in the panel’s final set of recommendations for the City Council’s review in its annual SECA workshop on March 24.
Requests for portions of the fund, which uses revenue derived from the city’s food and beverage tax receipts, added up to more than $3.3 million. The commission went into Saturday’s public hearing having already made preliminary recommendations to provide full funding for some and partial support for many of the applicants, while a few — most making first-time requests — are on track to come up empty-handed.
However, Saturday’s testimony did lead to a change of heart on the commission’s part regarding one inaugural request. The Chicago organization Hope for the Day, which works with Naperville-based Nickel a Day Films, was initially shut out in its request for $45,000 to cover the costs of a locally produced suicide prevention film. Now the nonprofit is being recommended for a $14,333 award.
Commissioners had been skeptical, some noting that the agency isn’t based in Naperville, and that SECA generally isn’t about social services. But Jonny Boucher, executive director of Hope for the Day, presented a compelling argument that pointed out many local threads.
“This community is no stranger to self-harm,” he said, noting that suicide is now the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. among those age 15 to 24. “It has to start with a simple conversation… if we don’t start the conversations, how can we see the change?”
The purpose of the film, part of the agency’s Hope Defined project, will be to foster awareness of the variables that come into play when an individual contemplates suicide, and what the community can do about it. Boucher said his organization has contacted many local nonprofits that support and advocate for youth.
“Many things are leading this, and every day there are kids that are just going by the wayside,” said Boucher, emphasizing that the movie, being produced by teens from District 203 and 204 schools, will resonate with adults as well. “It opens up the door and lets people know that this community suffers as a whole, and how we can come together as a whole.”
Commission members also gave a nod to a project pitched by the Naperville Heritage Society that they’d initially rejected. Mike Krol, Naper Settlement’s interim president and CEO, said the society has launched an investigation into the story of Sybil Dunbar, which 1860s census records show as Naperville’s first African American resident.
Dunbar’s grave marker in Naperville Cemetery is deteriorating, and the society hopes to ward off additional damage by restoring the simple gray headstone. Also planned is research into Dunbar’s past in her Vermont birthplace, although that portion of the undertaking is already partly funded from other sources, Krol said. The society asked for $12,900 to cover the research and the restoration.
“We think there’s a good story there to tell,” Krol said.
The commissioners agreed that Dunbar’s having been the first black resident, and her arrival in Naperville during the Civil War era, suggest further study is warranted.
Reasoning that they could reconsider helping fund the Dunbar research next year, the group approved a $5,500 recommended grant for the cemetery project.
Commission chairwoman Becky Anderson said some of the 91 SECA requests fell short by omitting required information on their applications, such as the agencies’ annual budgets.
“Going forward, there is going to be a more strict and detailed manual on how these funds will be allocated,” she said.
Anderson also plugged Restaurant Week, which is under way now, and emphasized the importance of applicants demonstrating that they support Naperville’s eateries, stores and other businesses.
“I always say put your money where your house is,” Anderson said.